Kobe Bryant could become a free agent in 2014 as LA Lakers resist offering the NBA superstar a new contract until he has fully recovered from his long-term Achilles injury.
The 35-year-old has been out of action since April after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State, and is set to miss all of pre-season for the Lakers ahead of the new NBA campaign.
Bryant is out of contract next year and, reports the LA Times, the Lakers have not opened talks over a new deal, and will not do so unless they are certain he has returned to full-fitness following his injury troubles.
The Lakers understandably want to maximise their cap space with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh all potential entering free agency at the end of the season, and this could mean cutting Bryant.
The five-time NBA champion is able to ask for a maximum five-percent salary increase during contract negotiations, meaning he could earn $32 million in 2014-15, but the Lakers would reportedly not be willing to pay him that much.
This means Bryant could leave the Lakers after 17 years in Los Angeles, and may prompt him to call time on his career rather than stick around for one last pay day.
"How long and for how much do you keep Kobe around?" NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon told the LA Times.
"What's the line between loyalty to him and loyalty to making the franchise a winning team? They want to maximize their cap room. Having Kobe on the books at a big salary would really cut into their signing ability."